Most Colleges Give Inaccurate Price Details in Financial-Aid Letters, Federal Report Finds

Melissa Korn:

The U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report Monday saying that the aid letters that are supposed to lay out tuition, fees and other expenses, and what grants, loans and other financing options are available to cover those costs, lack crucial information that would allow families to compare institutions. At their worst, some financial aid offer letters lead students to enroll in schools they can’t afford.

One of the most troubling findings from its review, the GAO said, was that 91% of schools don’t properly list their net price, or the amount a student is expected to pay for tuition, fees, room, board and other expenses after taking into account scholarships and grants.

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Studying recent aid offers from a nationally representative sample of 176 colleges, the GAO found 41% of colleges didn’t include a net price, while 50% did offer a figure—but understated the cost by excluding certain items, or by factoring in loans for students and parents that ultimately need to be repaid.